ROC Solid: Remote Operations Center Delivers Energy Savings

Facilities and energy management can be a reactive line of work. Maintenance teams are often chasing after hot/cold calls, control overrides, or utility bill increases and asked to manage more area with fewer staff.

Typically, facilities operations teams are spread across multiple regions and decisions have to percolate through numerous teams, slowing down the process and complicating solutions.

To proactively manage large, interconnected facility groups, monitoring energy usage and maintaining system efficiency have to be enterprise-wide priorities every day.

Uniting systems management through a Remote Operations Center (ROC) utilizing automated fault detection and monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) can provide the framework for a solution. Drawing on the latest data analytics software to empower maintenance staff, ROCs take a holistic approach to energy efficiency for large, multi-facility systems. This allows a small team to track real-time efficiency data and drive maintenance efforts at several locations – even if separated by hundreds of miles.

Over time, the benefits of establishing an ROC in terms of both energy savings and overall efficiency can be dramatic.


Beginning in 2010, Phoenix-based Banner Health System worked with Bernhard* on retro-commissioning projects at several of their facilities, with a goal of lowering energy costs and minimizing threats to mission-critical services. The non-profit health system has a large footprint, with 32 hospitals across six states.

Banner Health and Bernhard team’s initial efforts to make older buildings more energy efficient achieved significant savings at numerous facilities. However, performance drift eventually set in and annual energy use and cost slowly increased. Identifying a strategy that worked system-wide was a complex problem involving multiple building automation technologies, computerized maintenance management systems, system design standards, and maintenance protocols at different Banner Health campuses.

Bernhard’s team of experts stepped in to help Banner Health develop an innovative pilot program at the Thunderbird Medical Center in Phoenix. The program was built around monitoring-based commissioning with data delivered to a centralized operations hub staffed by a small team of skilled technicians and energy analysts. This hub would collect, store, and analyze data from buildings on the Thunderbird Medical Center campus while standardizing maintenance processes and identifying opportunities to optimize energy efficiency.

The results of this pilot program were outstanding, delivering energy cost savings of $449,000 per year, including saving 4.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 13,600 dekatherms of natural gas.

Seeing the promise of a more data-driven energy strategy, Banner Health began an operations initiative in 2015 aimed at leaving behind facility-specific decision-making in favor of standardized protocols and a centralized ROC providing monitoring-based commissioning. By 2017, Bernhard had helped make the Banner Health ROC a reality.

The ROC quickly made headway at lowering Banner Health’s energy costs, identifying maintenance opportunities, and correcting system inefficiencies. In some cases, Banner Health ROC analysts were even able to predict adverse events.

For example, Banner Health central plants sometimes experience chiller surging, a condition where refrigerant backflows the refrigeration cycle. Chiller surging can reduce equipment life if left unchecked. By consulting with refrigeration engineers to understand the warning signs of chiller surge and how it appears in the data, the team is now able to remotely identify conditions that lead to chiller surge, allowing technicians to proactively adjust plant operation.


Banner Health’s ROC initiative has been a demonstrated success. Since 2016, a centralized ROC monitoring more than 15 million square feet of space with a staff of only 12 has worked with the Bernhard engineering team to orchestrate energy projects that reduced annual energy spend by nearly $12 million per year. In addition, real-time monitoring for faults and anomalies has helped save $3.8 million annually that would have been lost to performance drift, while reducing equipment diagnosis and repair times, hot and cold calls and deferred maintenance and repairs.

Bernhard’s system of constant tracking of factors like temperature, humidity and pressure helped Banner Health meet or exceed patient healing environment goals like average patient room temperature and consistent negative air pressure in operating suites and isolation rooms. Thanks in part to these efforts, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) awarded Banner Health their 2021 Excellence in Health Care Facility Management Award, which showcases innovative facilities management programs that improve patient care.

Ready to learn more about what remote monitoring-based commissioning could do to help meet energy goals for your large, multi-facility organization? Click here to learn more about Bernhard’s past successes and team of experts.

*Banner Health Systems was contracted with ETC Group, an energy-efficiency engineering firm acquired by Bernhard in Feb. 2022.